You can never enter the same river twice: true or false?



Heraclitus said “You can’t enter the same river twice”.


Do you agree? No? Think about it a little more.

He was right, you cannot enter the same exact river twice. The river won’t be exactly the same, the water, the fish, the temperature, the time of the day etc won’t be the same. Nor will you. You won’t be exactly the same as the first time, so there is no second time. You won’t be exactly the same person, you won’t be feeling the same, you won’t be in the same state of mind or have the same thoughts, emotions or even the same age. In other words, you won’t be the same person.


So you cannot enter the same river twice.


Earlier today I was walking back home from the gym and during my walk I was able to marvel a magical post-sunset beach scenery. It was stunning. The colours, the shades, the gentle cool breeze that was just right, so soothing to my soul… As I was walking, I thought of all the other times that I’ve done the same walk, with the same start and end point. I thought of all the photos I’ve taken on my way back. All the sunsets, all the waves, all the clouds. And while all those images were swiftly passing by in my mind, I realised that, although they were similar to one another, they were not the same. The sun was never in the same position, the sky never looked the same in each picture, the time was not exactly the same. I wasn’t the same either. I was not in the same mood every time, or feeling the same feelings. Plus the photos weren't taken in exactly the same spot.


And so I felt, deep in my being, the sweet nostalgic realisation that all those moments were all completely and irreplaceably unique. They were a “pile” of never-to-happen-again diamonds I had the unexpected pleasure and honour to experience.


Straight after, an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and sadness filled me. Because the same was true for every other moment of my life. ALL the moments I had experienced so far, with all the people I’ve shared them with, in all the places in the world, will never be lived a second time. This made me want to cry, but also want to hug those moments tightly. Because I won’t have them again. Ever. Even if everything stays “the same” (which we know by now it’s not the case) those moments happened there and then. Period. Plus you never know if your relationship with the people you shared those moments with will stay the same. In fact, it never does. People evolve, change, backtrack, grow closer together or grow apart. But they don’t stay the same, not really.


Change is the one thing all of mankind dreads the most (change and fear are very closely linked, but we’ll get to it another time), yet it’s the only thing that’s constantly true about the human experience.


And that gave its place to another realisation: the fragility and fluidity of each moment. Good, bad or otherwise coloured. And, no, I’m not about to say the cliché “life is good, enjoy it”. Because some moments are just plain hard. In those moments it’s difficult to see through the darkness and find a shimmering light to cheer you up. And claiming that’s the case (if it is for you I salute you) is pretty much textbook for toxic positivity. Some moments are hard. I’m not going to try and dress is up with a more jazzy word. Hard. But even those moments are unique and will never unravel again in exactly the same way. Which, if you happen to be going through a difficult period in your life, can feel like a relief.


Because:

a) it means that even if you feel stuck in an endless loop of difficult moments, that’s not really the case, and

b) you are moving through them, making tiny but actual steps of getting yourself out of that difficult situation.


The word “situation” implies something static, a state or a stable thing. A situation is or isn’t. The word situation is a noun and nouns have no momentum in them. They have no movement, no life. But that’s not true, because as we just discovered together, situations consist of millions of tiny unique and non-repeatable moments of things happening. And that has a lot of actions. A lot. So, situations are not a swamp where nothing happens and nothing moves. Quite the contrary. I don’t know about you, but I find that rather hopeful.

It literally smells like hope to me.


Hope and gratitude that nothing is:

· Permanent

· Static

· Set in stone

· Not possible to change


And equally, everything can:

· Evolve

· Change

· Transform

· Progress

· Lead to the next moment

· Bring the next lesson

· Be treasured

· Be appreciated


I said earlier on that some things are just hard. I truly believe that. I deeply feel that if something is X, Y, Z you have to call it what it is. And some stuff are hard. Acknowledging that is a huge milestone for our sense of agency during the more challenging phases of our lives. Not trying to deny the struggle and seeing the thing for what it is takes courage and determination. So, no, I’m not saying “let’s all live in a pink fluffy cloud”, although it doesn’t sound that bad to me…!


What I am saying is this: even when things are hard, you are moving through them. Even your darkest moments are little speckles in the canvas of your life; not the whole painting. You don’t have to push or punish yourself while being forced to reframe, accept, call it something else, or put a fake smile on while you suffer on the inside etc. It's ok to be in those moments in any way you like. Because they are yours. And because they won’t last for ever (only momentarily!). I’m not saying you should indulge your hard moments; I’m saying you can. As you can in your happy ones. Or not. It’s your choice.


It’s your choice!


To bring it back full circle to the beginning of this piece, if those moments are the H2O molecules in Heraclitus’s river and the river is your life, you are entering a body of water that flows. Sometimes the stream flows faster, others slower. But it always flows. Even if you decide to walk the river upstream, the river keeps on moving – as do you – with all its twists and turns along the way. And you know what?


You have to get yourself wet.


So grab your swimsuit and embrace it all!





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